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Best things to do in Belfast

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Where in the world: Europe  /  UK  /  Northern Ireland  /  Belfast
Things to do in Belfast range from chitchatting with whimsical locals at hole-in-the-wall pubs to exploring the pedestrian-friendly city center. Take the chance to see the fine architectural features of City Hall and discover the secrets of Crumlin Road Gaol, the only Victorian-era prison in Northern Ireland with authentic cells from the 19th century. Boasting versatile collections and covering a range of subjects, Ulster Museum is home to artifacts from the Stone Age, Spanish Armada relics, and paintings by Sir John Lavery.

Belfast is best known for its Specialty Museums, Historic Sites, and Nightlife.

Top 15 things to do in Belfast

1. City Hall

The central location and gardens of City Hall attract workers on their lunch breaks, as well as students seeking a patch of green between classes. The gardens are full of statues and memorials commemorating various historical figures and events, including a statue of Queen Victoria, a granite column paying homage to the American Expeditionary Force, and a Titanic memorial. The building itself still operates, so much of it is closed off to the public, but the facade is worth a photo. Take a stroll through the gardens, or join the ranks on the benches with your lunch.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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2. Crumlin Road Gaol

The only Victorian-era prison in Northern Ireland, Crumlin Road Gaol held its last prisoner in 1996. The first 106 inmates were forced to walk to the prison in chains in 1846, but your walk along Crumlin Road will be much more pleasant. The dark gray sandstones give the prison's facade an ominous look. Nowadays, visitors roam the halls of the jail and view the cells where men, women, and even children paid their debts to society. Exhibits throughout the building tell their stories, along with information about the building's state-of-the-art 19th-century design.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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3. Titanic Belfast

At Titanic Belfast, learn the story of the doomed ship in the city in which it was built. hear survivors' stories while seeing images of the ship sinking. Galleries cover photos of Belfast from the period of the ship's construction, scenes of the ship's 1911 launch, the aftermath of the tragedy, and the rediscovery of the wreck at the bottom of the Atlantic. Take a ride in a mini-car around a replica of the Titanic's rudder.The building itself is a striking addition to Belfast architecture. Its design recalls features of the Titanic, and a facade of 3,000 individual silver anodized aluminum shards evokes the iceberg that sank the ship.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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4. Ulster Museum

The clean, crisp interior of Ulster Museum is contained within an elegant building close to Belfast’s city center. Highlights of the extensive collection here include relics from the Spanish Armada, nearly three dozen Sir John Lavery paintings that the famed Irish portraitist donated himself, and works from maritime painter Kenneth Shoesmith. You'll also find archaeological items dating to the Stone Age, militaria, and items from world cultures across the globe such as samurai armor and war canoes from the Solomon Islands. Check out the exhibits telling the natural history of the island of Ireland through taxidermied mammals, wildlife, and 100,000 preserved plants and fungi including mosses, ferns, and lichens. In addition to free admission, the museum offers a free daily welcome tour (except Saturdays). Check the website for a schedule.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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6. SS Nomadic

Hop aboard the restored SS Nomadic, tender ship to the Titanic and the last remaining White Star Line ship in the world. Learn about 100 years of maritime and social history with interactive activities and tales from the ship's past, such as its role in World War One and Two. Experience the authentic heritage and atmosphere with a recreation of what it was like to be a passenger boarding the Titanic, and access the cramped quarters where the Nomadic crew lived. After exploring the ship’s interior, stroll along the bridge and flying bridge deck. Take in views of historic Hamilton Dock and Belfast harbor.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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7. Giant's Causeway, Bushmills

Considered the country’s fourth-greatest natural wonder, World Heritage-listed Giant's Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, formed by ancient volcanic eruptions. Most of the columns are hexagonal, with the tallest rising 12 m (39 ft) into the air. Some of these rock structures, after several million years of weathering, resemble easily recognizable objects. These include the Organ, Giant’s Boot, Giant’s Eyes, and Camel’s Hump. Visit the area to see and photograph a wide variety of native seabirds, such as cormorants, redshanks, and razorbills. The weathered rocks shelter a number of rare and unusual plants, including sea spleenwort, sea fescue, and frog orchid. Stop by the visitor center for more information, souvenirs, and refreshments.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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9. Room Escape Games

Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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10. Causeway Coastal Route, Ballintoy

The Causeway Coastal Route consists of a scenic 193 km (120 mi) road weaving its way around the northern Irish coast between Belfast and Londonderry. Distinctive brown road signs direct visitors to a host of major tourist attractions, including The Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle, and The Old Bushmills Whiskey Distillery, set amongst cliffs, mountains, waterfalls, and golden sands. Make sure you give yourself time to explore and enjoy unplanned adventures and tempting deviations. Some of the roads leading off the route to attractions can be quite narrow, so do take care if you’re not used to driving on small roads.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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11. Belfast Botanical Gardens

Belfast Botanical Gardens combines history with nature. Open since 1828, the gardens hold many exotic tree species and plant collections from the southern hemisphere. It is home to the Palm House conservatory and the Tropical Ravine. Completed in 1852, Palm House is one of the oldest and finest cast-iron and glass greenhouses. It boasts an impressive array of plant species, including an Australian lily that finally bloomed after a 23-year wait. Tropical Ravine contains what are thought to be some of the oldest seed plants in the world, as well as banana, cinnamon, and orchid plants. The gardens contain giant bird feeders, a rose garden, an alpine garden, mature trees, flower beds, and sculptures.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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12. HMS Caroline

HMS Caroline is a decommissioned C-class light cruiser of the Royal Navy that saw combat service in the First World War and served as an administrative centre in the Second World War. Caroline was launched and commissioned in 1914. At the time of her decommissioning in 2011 she was the second-oldest ship in Royal Navy service, after HMS Victory. She served as a static headquarters and training ship for the Royal Naval Reserve, based in Alexandra Dock, Belfast, Northern Ireland, for the later stages of her career. She was converted into a museum ship. From October 2016 she underwent inspection and repairs to her hull at Harland and Wolff and opened to the public on 1 July 2017 at Alexandra Dock in the Titanic Quarter in Belfast.
Caroline was the last remaining British First World War light cruiser in service, and she is the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland still afloat. She is also one of only three surviving Royal Navy warships of the First World War, along with the 1915 monitor HMS M33 (in Portsmouth dockyard), and the Flower-class sloop HMS President, (formerly HMS Saxifrage) usually moored on the Thames at Blackfriars but as from February 2016, in Number 3 Basin, Chatham.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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13. Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, Ballintoy

Sway between two cliffs faces 30 m (98 ft) above the rocks and water on Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. Fishermen once used it during the salmon runs, but currently the National Trust manages it as a tourist attraction. Over 247,000 visitors walk across the bridge every year to the island of Carrickarede, an Irish word meaning "rock of the casting," for the views over the sea below and the land behind. You must pay a small fee to cross the bridge, but once you pay you're on your own. The money goes toward upkeep and preservation.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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14. Ulster Aviation Society, Lisburn

Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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15. Parliament Buildings

Home to Northern Ireland's government, Parliament Buildings offers plenty of activities for visitors. Walk up the long driveway as you enter the estate and continue on to one of the multiple walking paths spanning throughout the site. Take advantage of the lush, green areas--perfect for a picnic--or visit the restaurant for a snack or meal. The government buildings offer guided tours, explaining Northern Irish history in relation to the building; be sure to look for the chandeliers in the Great Hall while on the tour. Located a short distance from central Belfast, incorporate your visit to the estate with the hop on/hop off bus tour.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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